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Czech Police investigating squatting of building by the Klinika Social Center

8.3.2016 17:14
Boards over the broken display window at the Klinika Social Center in the  Žižkov quarter of Prague. The photograph was taken on 7 February 2016. On Saturday, 6 February 2016,  a group of about 20 masked persons attacked the center in the evening with flares and rocks. (PHOTO:  František Kostlán)
Boards over the broken display window at the Klinika Social Center in the Žižkov quarter of Prague. The photograph was taken on 7 February 2016. On Saturday, 6 February 2016, a group of about 20 masked persons attacked the center in the evening with flares and rocks. (PHOTO: František Kostlán)

The Prague 3 Municipal Council will be meeting to discuss the Autonomous Social Center Klinika. The session was convened by opposition members of the council who support the activists behind Klinika remaining at the facility in the Žižkov quarter.

Last week the activists' year-long contract to borrow the building from the Office for Government Representation in Property Affairs (Úřad pro zastupování státu ve věcech majetkových - ÚZSVM) expired. Just as they did during December 2014 when they first fought for access to the building, squatters are now occupying it, and the ÚZSVM has filed a complaint with the Czech Police.

The center is being used by the squatters for lectures, film screenings and language courses. Prage 3 Mayor Vladislava Hujová (TOP 09) has invited Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO), whose ministry administers the ÚZSVM, and Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) to the meeting because his ministry's Department of Security Policy mentioned Klinika last year in its situational report on the topic of extremism.

Right-wing extremists attacked the building this February with rocks and pyrotechnics on the same day that anti-refugee demonstrations were held in Prague. Prior to that, Klinika had organized a collection of donated items in support of refugees.

The ÚZSVM says it is not extending its loan of the building to Klinika because it has been warned by the Building Works Authority of Prague 3 that the facility is only permitted for use as a lung sanatorium. The ÚZSVM faces a fine of hundreds of thousands of crowns for allowing it to be used for a different purpose without the necessary permits.

Activists and local councilors in the Žižkov quarter (and not only them) are of the opinion that it would be easy to resolve that issue by granting a different use permit for the building. "Prague 3 should have turned to the Prague City Council to initiate negotiations with the ÚZSVM on transferring the building at Jeseniova 60 into the ownership of the City of Prague," said Green Party chair Matěj Stropnický (Trojkoalice/Strana zelených), who sits on both the Prague 3 and the City of Prague councils.

Activists are also collecting signatures on a petition asking for the Prague City Council to review the situation. According to Kateřina Arajmu, the director of the ÚZSVM, the necessity of keeping the building in the hands of the state must now be reviewed by the Government's dislocation commission.

If no other organizational unit of the state expresses interest in the building, the plan is to sell it. Municipalities are not state units.

ÚZSVM asks police to investigate 

The squatters initially occupied the building at the end of 2014 and after several months, with the assent of the Czech Government, succeeded in borrowing it. In the past, hundreds of people have demonstrated in support of the center remaining at the facility.

A community laundry room, library, and cafe have been running there, and concerts and lectures have been given there. Klinika's programs are offered free of charge or for a voluntary donation.

Activists have also repaired the building, primarily with their own labor. They have refused subsidies from the local government and from big sponsors.

The ÚZSVM has filed a complaint asking police to investigate whether the use of the building by the Klinika center after the contract has expired is illegal. "At the end of last week we filed a complaint with the criminal justice authorities asking them to launch an investigation into whether, in the matter of the illegal use of the building at Jeseniova 60, such use meets the definition of a misdemeanor or felony," a representatve told the Czech News Agency.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Aktivismus, Klinika, Milan Chovanec, Andrej Babiš



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